Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I’m having a heart attack?
These are the major symptoms of a heart attack:
  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort. 
  • Other symptoms. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat or experiencing nausea or light–headedness.

Are the symptoms different for women? 
Women’s most common heart attack symptom is the same as men’s: chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. 
 
What should I do if I think someone is having a heart attack?
Call 9-1-1 immediately. Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they arrive. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. 
 
 
Why is there a need to act fast?
Prompt treatment can reduce the risk of death or permanent damage. 
 
 
What is heart disease?
The most common heart disease in the U.S. is coronary artery disease. It occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed due to the buildup of plaque. This condition is called atherosclerosis. The subsequent reduction of blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle can lead to a heart attack. 
 
 
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
Certain medical conditions can put you at a higher risk for heart disease, and so can some lifestyle factors. The most important risk factors that you can influence are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and obesity. 
 
 
How can I reduce my risk?
You can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol; by avoiding tobacco; by preventing or controlling diabetes; and by maintaining adequate physical activity, weight, and a healthy diet. If you’re being treated for conditions or risk factors, follow your doctor’s guidance.
 
 
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. In addition to the cholesterol made by your own body, it’s also found in many foods. 

Extra cholesterol can build up in your arteries. Over time, cholesterol deposits called plaque can narrow your arteries and allow less blood to pass through. When plaque totally blocks an artery that carries blood to the heart, a heart attack occurs. It also can happen when a deposit ruptures and causes a clot in a coronary artery. 

Chest pain, also called angina, is caused by plaque partially blocking a coronary artery, reducing blood flow to the heart.
 
 
How is “good” cholesterol different from “bad” cholesterol?
Particles called lipoproteins carry cholesterol in the blood. There are two kinds of lipoproteins you need to know about:
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol make up the majority of the body’s cholesterol. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to a buildup in the arteries and result in heart disease.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) absorb cholesterol and carry it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
 
 
How can I control my cholesterol?
There are several things you can do:
  • Get a blood test
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke
  • Treat high cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes. Talk with your doctor about how to reduce your risk of heart disease.
 
 
What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?
There are generally no symptoms of high cholesterol. If you’ve never had your cholesterol checked, you may not know you’re at risk. A simple blood test can determine your level. 
 
 
What are the risk factors for high cholesterol?
A variety of factors affect your cholesterol level:
  • Age. Cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. 
  • Gender. Until around age 55, women tend to have lower LDL levels than men. But as people age, women’s LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels rise more quickly than men’s. At any age, men tend to have lower HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels than women do.
  • Diabetes. 
  • Diet. Foods containing saturated fats, trans fatty acids (trans fats), dietary cholesterol, or triglycerides can raise your cholesterol. 
  • Being overweight. 
  • Physical inactivity. 
  • Genetics. High cholesterol can run in families. 
 
What is interventional cardiology?
Interventional cardiology uses catheters to treat heart problems. Bay Area Hospital can offer  catheterization procedures including balloon angioplasty, stenting, thrombectomy, pacemaker implantation, and others.
 
 
Does Bay Area Hospital offer open heart surgery?
No, but we partner with the Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute at Peace Health Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend (Springfield). We commonly refer surgical cases there. In an emergency, you can be flown directly to RiverBend in as little as 30 minutes.
 
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Heart Association
 
The information in this FAQ is intended for consumer education only. It is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Ask your physician or other qualified healthcare provider about any medical condition you may have.

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